The leather burnishing tool is one of the most important tools in a leatherworker’s arsenal. It can be used to create professional-looking edges on leather projects, and it is an essential part of many leather crafting techniques.
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about leather burnishing tools, including how to select the right one for your project, how to use it, and what tips and tricks you can use to get the best results.
What Is A Leather Burnishing Tool?
The leather burnishing tool is a piece of hardwood that is used to smooth and finish the edges of leather projects.
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The leather burnishing tool comes with different size grooves that can work on leathers of different thicknesses.
The grooves on the leather burnishing tool is rubbed on the edges of the leather to create enough friction to seal or smoothen the leather edge.
The leather burnishing tool is also known as or marketed as a leather edge slicker or burnished.
The leather burnishing tool is usually made from wood, but there are quite a few of them that also come in glass and other smooth materials.
Not only is the leather burnishing tool useful for your leathercraft, but it is a tool that is a piece of art in and of itself.
What Does The Leather Burnishing Tool Do?
Here are a few things the leather burnishing tool does:
1. The Leather Burnishing Tool Seals Leather Edges
One of the most common uses for the leather burnishing tool is to seal the edges of your leather project.
When you use the leather burnishing tool, you are essentially creating enough friction that binds the exposed grain layer on the edge of cut leather so they fuse together.
This will create a water-resistant, stain, and dirt-resistant seal that will protect your leather edges from moisture and other elements.
This way, your leather fibers are protected, and the leather article remains supple, strong, and beautiful for a longer period of time.
2. The Leather Burnishing Tool Also Help Harden Leather Edges
Another common use for the leather burnishing tool is to harden the edges of your leather project. The hardening effect of the burnishing process will help extend the lifespan of your leather projects.
3. Leather Burnishing Tool Help To Smoothen The Leather Edge
When leather is cut, the fibers on the edge of the leather are usually frayed. The leather burnishing tool can be used to smoothen out the edges of your leather project.
This will give your leather projects a more polished and professional look. Another thing this does is to prevent the leather fibers from further fraying so that it remains intact.
Types Of Leather Burnishing Tool
There are three main types of leather burnishing tools. These include;
- electric burnishing machines,
- rotary burnishers, and
- handheld or manual burnishers.
The Electric Leather Burnisher
An electric leather burnishing tool is powered by batteries or electricity and does all the work for you. All you need to do is guide it along the edge of your leather project.
The electric leather burnishing machine comprises a motor with various burnisher mounts. Manufacturers like Master Tools make their electric leather burnisher to be versatile as it can be used with different burnisher heads and can also help sand your leather edges.
The advantage of using an electric leather burnishing tool is that it is very fast and can do a great job on big projects and high-level production.
It also doesn’t require much skill to use one, as all you need to do is guide the leather edges along the burnisher edge.
As useful as the electric leather burnisher tool is, it is also quite expensive, especially if leather work is only a hobby for you. They can cost anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on the brand and model.
So, it’s a common tool used by professional leatherworkers but may not be the best option for hobbyists and beginners.
The Rotary Leather Burnisher
This type of leather burnishing tool is essentially a burnisher attachment you can mount on a power drill or a Dremel.
The advantage of using a rotary leather burnisher is that it gives you more control over the speed and pressure you apply to your leather project.
This makes it easier to avoid burning or scorching your leather while getting the best possible results.
It is also a more affordable option than the electric leather burnisher, as you probably already have a power drill or Dremel around the house.
All you need is to buy the rotary leather burnishing attachment, which usually costs less than $15. This is my go-to as it is fast, easy to use, and affordable.
The Handheld Or Manual Leather Burnisher
This is the most traditional way of burnishing leather edges and is still used by many professional leatherworkers today.
A handheld or manual leather burnisher is a small piece of hardwood, plastic, or glass that you hold in your hand and rub along the edge of your leather project.
The advantage of using a handheld or manual leather burnisher is that it is affordable, and in terms of practicality, it gives you more control.
The downside is that it takes more time and effort to use a handheld or manual burnisher, and you need a bit of skill and experience to get good results.
I would recommend using a handheld or manual leather burnisher if you are just starting out with leatherwork, as it is more affordable.
I ordered this leather burnishing tool a couple of years ago, and well, it has held up even though I paid less than $8 for the entire set.
As mentioned above, the handheld or manual burnisher comes in various materials. Here are a few of the common ones you will come across on the market.
- The Leather Wood Burnishing Tool
The wood burnisher is the most popular leather burnishing tool, and it is synonymous with the term burnishing tool.
The wood burnisher is the most common type of leather burnishing tool because it is very versatile and effective at finishing leather edges.
Hardwood, such as maple or beech, is often used for wood burnishers. These wood materials are durable and can withstand the wear and tear of repeated use.
There are also some exotic wood burnishing tools made from some of the most durable woods like ebony, pine, oak, rosewood, cocobolo, and many others.
The main thing that makes wood the perfect material for leather burnishing is that it does not retain the heat from friction–so all the heat will not burn the leather edges.
Meaning your leather wood burnishing tool will last you a lifetime.
- The Glass Burnishing Tool
The glass burnishing tool is a less common type of leather burnishing tool but is very common in a lot of fancy or novel leather burnishing tools.
Glass is also perfect because it doesn’t retain the heat generated, so it will put a beautiful burnish on your leather without scorching its edges.
The major downside of glass is that it can be very fragile and can break easily if dropped.
You will also have to take extra care when using a glass burnishing tool so that you don’t scratch or nick the glass.
- Metal Burnishing Tool
The metal burnishing tool is not as common as the other two but is still used by some leatherworkers.
Metal is a very strong and durable material, so it can put a great deal of pressure on your leather to give it that perfect burnish.
One of the most common metals used for this is brass. The downside of using a metal burnishing tool is that it can get quite hot from the friction and can easily scorch your leather if you’re not careful.
How To Select A Leather Burnishing Tool
Now that we’ve gone over the three most common types of leather burnishing tools let’s talk about how to select one.
When it comes to choosing a leather burnishing tool, there are a few things you need to consider:
- the volumes of leather you will be burnishing
- the material
- your budget
The Volume Of Leather Work You Do
The volume of leather you will be burnishing is an important factor to consider because it will determine the sizes and type of leather burnishing tool you need.
If you are only going to be burnishing a few small leather projects, then a handheld or manual burnishing tool will be sufficient.
You can also get a burnishing bit if you already have a power drill.
But if you are planning on burnishing a lot of leather, then you will need an electric leather burnishing machine.
The Material Of The Leather Burnishing Tool
The material is also an important consideration because it will determine the durability and lifespan of your leather burnishing tool.
My general recommendation is to go for a hardwood burnishing tool, whether for your power tools or manual or handheld burnishers.
The reason is that hardwood is very durable and can withstand the wear and tear of repeated use.
Also, the wood grains are super-fine, so you will get a lot of friction and heat to generate that perfect burnish without damaging the leather.
Your budget is also important because leather burnishing tools can range in price from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. But you don’t need to break the bank to get a good quality leather burnishing tool.
I hope this guide has been helpful and that you now have a better understanding of what a leather burnishing tool is, their uses and benefits, and the different types of leather burnishing tools available.
I also talked about some of the important factors to consider when choosing a leather burnishing tool; you need to consider the volume of leather work you do, the material, and your budget.
Now that you know the basics of leather burnishing tools, it’s time to get started on your next leather project!